Sunday, August 14, 2011

Bride price negotiation/ engagement party


I had an interesting experience yesterday.  I went to the bride price negotiation "party" for my Turkana friend, Eric.  He wants to marry a young pharmacist that he met while in nursing school.  She is not a Turkana, so he had to do several things that were unfamiliar to all us Turkana folk who came to support him.

He had about 25 friends come with him to his future in-laws house.  They had rented two outdoor event tents and one was pretty full with her family and friends.  We went into that and filled it up while we waited.  He was allowed to bring in 8 of his friends into the house with him.  My teammate, Gene Morden, was one of the ones allowed to go in and observe.  They asked where they came from and why they were there.  When Eric had said he came to get a wife, they brought out 2 girls one at a time.  They asked is this the girl?  He said no, that is not the girl.  Then they brought out Zeddy.  He said yes, that is the girl!  They asked her if she was willing to marry him and she said yes.  Then she came to him and put a ring on his finger.  He gave her a bracelet.  I guess this was to signify her acceptance of him and vice versa.

Then began the bride price negotiation.  It started high at 8 cows and several sheep.  They came out and told those of us waiting and Eric's mom said, "lets just go.  She isn't worth that much!"  She had an arranged marriage and so doesn't really understand wanting to marry for love - especially outside the tribe.  Anyway, they got the price down to an acceptable amount, haggled over the money that would be paid in place of cows, since it would be hard to bring cows from Turkana to Eldoret.  Then they set the date for the wedding.

All of this meeting was written down and at the end Eric and his friend signed it and 2 representatives for Zeddy signed it and the pastor who oversaw the negotiations signed it.  After that Zeddy was called by his name.  They told him that she would be locked away from him until the wedding.  She was taken out of the house by the Turkana group and had Turkana beads placed around her neck and they danced around the yard with her for a bit.  Then her family came and took her away since she is not yet a Turkana :).  They then served a nice lunch to the great crowd of people who were there.

To symbolize Zeddy leaving her family, they brought out a small cake.  This was her going away present.  After some speeches, it was cut into slices and then cut into small pieces.  Everyone got a mouthful.  They had two other cakes that were given to an aunty in her family and to an aunty in his family.  I'm not sure exactly what is to be done with it, but we still have it.

Then, they had the gift giving.  Zeddy's family and friends brought gifts to be given out into the center of a circle of singing and dancing folk.  Then Zeddy came and picked out some of Eric's friends to come into the circle.  She then proceeded to give out the gifts.  If it was a shawl or wrap, she put it on the people.  I received a warm shawl and was quite happy for it as it was a cold and rainy day!

It was Eric's turn next.  We really sang and danced our hearts out.  We were a small group and our circle was soon made smaller from the crowd of people wanting to see what was being given.  Zeddy helped Eric give the gifts since he doesn't really know this tradition (it is from her tribe).  While he was giving out the gifts the Turkana contingent continued to sing and dance.  A couple of the people had cow tails that they swished around on people's heads and faces.  This is a Turkana blessing - although I don't think they knew that :).

Before the gift giving, there was a speech from one of Zeddy's uncles.  He spoke about the blessing of marriage and what was expected of each of them and how they should continue to bring honor and praise to the Lord.  Eric's aunt also made a speech along the same lines.  Zeddy's female relatives then sang a song about the things she was to do.  They put a bundle of firewood on her head, tied a young child onto her back, gave her a hoe and a broom and then had her use the hoe and sweep the ground.  All this to show what her responsibilities were - to bear and care for children and to be a hard worker.  I'm not so sure this would go over very well where I am from :).

It was dark by the time the day was over.  Now Eric has to arrange the wedding.  He chooses the location and makes all the arrangements and pays.  He has to pay the bride price before the wedding as well.  So, we will be having a mid-December wedding.  He is very happy and not looking quite as stressed as he did before the day began :).  They have waited a couple of years for her father to come around to the idea of her marrying outside her tribe.  So, it was a good conclusion to a long day.  Could you be in prayer for Eric as he makes decisions about where the wedding will take place.  Also please pray for the Lord's blessing on Eric and Zeddy as they begin their life's journey together!

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